Travel to the best museums the world has to offer – without even leaving your desk.
More and more museums are giving visitors online access to their most significant objects, curiosities, historical artefacts, and scientific and artistic exhibits. As iCademy Middle East is an online school, we thought that in this edition of Discovery Days, we would explore two of the best museums in the world, accessible at the click of a mouse.
The British Museum
Based in London, the British Museum is widely regarded as having some of the very best examples of antiquities from across the globe. Its permanent collection numbers some eight million works and is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, featuring artifacts from ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Anglo Saxons, Vikings, and Aztecs, to the Mayan, West African, Native American, and Polynesian, among many others. Its vast catalog is in essence the history of world civilization, all under one roof – a treasure trove of impossibly beautiful and historically important objects that is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the British capital. However, thanks to a superb collaboration between the museum and Google Arts and Culture, the museum’s unsurpassed collection is online for all to see.
The museum uses a virtual tour powered by Google Maps to navigate through the building which means that you can get up close and personal to the famous Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone as well the famous Sutton Hoo hoard of Anglo Saxon treasures among many thousands of others.
But once you have finished exploring, the British Museum website itself also offers a tremendous amount in terms of resources and activities for students who wish to further explore the ancient world. There are slide shows and notes available which give a more in-depth guided tour of the museum and to also inspire them to begin exploring history in a new and more direct way as well as mini-lesson plans if you want to give them the chance to use the museum as an educational resource. The lessons and slideshows are available for children of all ages and abilities and also combine history with other subjects such as maths or art. It is superb, and best of all it is totally free – perfect for some extra-curricular investigation.
To explore the museum in all its splendour visit www.artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-british-museum and to make use of the resource library online visit: The British Museum
The Smithsonian Institute
The Smithsonian Institute in the United States has museums that cover the entire gamut of human endeavor – be it art, natural history, culture, or science. They even have a zoo. There is so much on offer that to keep such an extensive collection private or only available to people on the ground would perhaps seem a little greedy. It therefore made total sense to bring the Smithsonian’s diverse exhibits online and to give the world the opportunity to instantly access its truly remarkable archives. The institute’s online portal is called the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and it is an outstanding example of a virtual museum experience. Students and teachers can sign up to the Learning Lab, completely free of charge and begin to curate their own private collection of Smithsonian artifacts.
In their own words the Smithsonian Learning Lab is a “major rethinking of how the digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine major research centres, the National Zoo, and more, can be used together, for learning”.
Exploration of a museum archive has never been more fun and the Learning Lab aims to inspire the discovery and creative use of its rich digital materials – more than a million images, recordings, and texts – to create your very own personalized collection. Using a simple search and save platform, each example in the Smithsonian’s collections has a complete listing and description of where the exhibit is held. But within the platform, community members can edit this information to create their own description, make notes on, and share thoughts about each exhibit – a truly unique concept and one which earned the Smithsonian the 2017 Gold medal MUSE Award in the education and outreach category.
The Learning Lab is a great community builder for learners who are passionate about adding to and bringing to light new knowledge, ideas, and insight. But more than that, it is a really inspiring resource where children (and adults for that matter) can explore the seemingly endless archives within the famed Smithsonian Institute.
To make use of the Learning Lab visit: Learning Lab
Art can play a large role in academia, and studies have shown that children who have regular access to art do better in their more academic studies. But art is one of those subjects where arguably talent plays a greater role than perseverance and teaching may feel as if it requires real-world know-how.
Let’s face it, if you as a parent are not artistically inclined, teaching your children about artistic technique may feel a million miles away from what you are capable of. The typical art curriculum on the K12 syllabus that we follow here at iCademy Middle East covers art in a very in-depth way, focusing on art history, global art styles, and overarching artistic theory. It does touch on practical exploration but this can be encouraged at any age, off syllabus.
At the preschool and elementary age, you can draw on resources such as drawing and colouring books – even dot-to-dot drawing tasks will help kids develop strong penmanship skills. There are also your typical glitter, glue, and crayon tasks which, while incredibly messy (perhaps encouraging you to take your art lesson outside), are amazing ways for youngsters to explore the arts and develop their imagination.
Essential arts and crafts supplies include:
With these supplies you can have them paint, draw, and craft anything that springs to mind. These exercises help foster imaginative thinking, as well develop hand-eye co-ordination.
If you want to get a bit more practical and work on their sculpture technique, you can take them to the kitchen where they can help you make playdough. Playdough is a practical and cheap resource for kids and with it they can create numbers, letters, shapes – or just free-sculpt to their hearts’ content. This recipe is really simple to do, and the dough lasts six months!
To make homemade play dough you will need:
Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Once done, add whichever food colouring you choose to the boiling water (be very careful to do this yourself if you are making this with your children). Safety first!
Once the dry ingredients and oil are mixed, add the hot water to the rest of the ingredients. Stir continuously until they become a sticky, combined dough.
Add the glycerine if you want your dough extra shiny, but this is optional. Allow the dough to cool to the point where you can safely take it out of the bowl.
Knead vigorously for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. This is the most important part of the process, so keep at it until it’s the perfect consistency. If after prolonged kneading the dough is still sticky, add a touch more flour until it feels just right.
There are also techniques you can adopt to foster a love of art through passive means. Books and pictures of art can be used to decorate the learning space, and children can get used to looking at and appreciating art. If you have the space to do so, perhaps set up a dedicated art station where all the crafting supplies live. This will help keep the clutter to a minimum while your kids can feel that they are being encouraged to be creative.
At the high-school level, you may want to think about investing a little extra time and money in formal art and craft classes. If your limited artistic ability is standing in the way of your kids having artistic talent nurtured, don’t be afraid to look outside the classroom. There are art clubs, cooking courses, sewing and knitting workshops – whatever your kids’ talents may be. Within the curriculum they will be asked to produce art work, but an after-school programme may be the best way to encourage artistic talent.
But even if your kids aren’t artistic, even if you can barely draw a straight line, an understanding and appreciation of art will stand your kids in great stead for the future. It encourages articulation of ideas, debate, and interpretation of concepts and emotions. This way of thinking will support multiple other academic disciplines and should be encouraged.
Twice selected as ‘Best Edutainment Center in Dubai’, Little Explorers has captured the imaginations of kids aged two to seven years, providing what they call a “sanctuary of fun safety and learning”. Education with a twist is most decidedly on offer – a place where children can explore their environment with hands-on play and learn to understand the world around them.
While the children are kept engaged with learning-based play, parents can also discover new ideas and learn new techniques to aid their children in better understanding and boost their mental and physical development; bringing to life Little Explorers’ motto, ‘Kids Explore. Parents Discover’.
At its flagship Mirdif location, Little Explorers provides multiple learning zones allowing children to construct individuality and social understanding, realise spatial and time-related awareness, augment their thought processes, and spark their quest for knowledge. Children can also expand their understanding of scientific theory and practice through their first scientific and technical experiments. Younger children can cultivate cognitive maturing and exercise their bodies in a zone specifically designed for those who have yet to reach reading age.
At this location there are 97 exhibits displayed across five zones, with facilities for guests with physical disabilities and a customer service assistant to help during off-peak periods.
At the smaller Marina facility, children can explore the 27 exhibits on display and get acquainted with the study of space, develop their balance, reaction times, hand-eye coordination, and reflex skills as well as learn about water and its nature.
Little Explorers provides a range of workshops at both facilities which can be tailored to an individual group’s needs and are in accordance with UAE school curricula.
AED 149 – Includes unlimited access to the playing areas, and art and crafts workshop.
Stay and play
AED 185 – Includes unlimited access to playing areas, one workshop of your choice (culinary, gardening, music, pottery).
AED 275 – Includes unlimited full-day access, inclusive of one adult, a hot beverage, lunch and snack for the child. Plus access to workshops (culinary, gardening, music, arts and crafts, pottery).
For more information visit www.theplaymania.com/little-explorers
There are times when it is really valuable to pull your children away from their computer screens, get them out into the big wide world, and let them see what is going on. At iCademy Middle East we strongly encourage you to access and expose your students to whatever resources you have around you so that you broaden their horizons. These could be libraries, museums, an animal park, historical sites or places of geographical interest – even the park or the beach! There is so much out there that can give students hands-on experiences to inspire and re-energise their studies. We are committed to sharing ideas and resources with you to make the most out of your children’s learning.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi – Children’s Museum
Saturday to Wednesday: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Thursday to Friday: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
(Closed on Mondays)
Children (under 12): Free
Children and students (13-22): AED 31.50
Adults: AED 63
We would wholeheartedly recommend that you take some time out of your schedule to expose your children to the arts wherever possible, and now the UAE is home to one of the most internationally recognisable names in art, it would be remiss of us not to encourage you to take your family and explore the excellent international collection of works at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. But interestingly, and perhaps less well-known, is that the Louvre has put together a museum designed specifically for children aged between six and twelve.
The Children’s Museum is a specially designed with families in mind, and hosts family-focused exhibitions and interactive workshops in Arabic and English with the aim of inspiring young minds by teaching children about artistic techniques and ideas.
By showing the children original works, displayed at their eye level with interactive displays to inspire their imagination, the Children’s Museum is ideal for school groups or family visits and everyone is invited to share in numerous learning activities designed to nurture curiosity and creativity.
For more information visit: https://www.louvreabudhabi.ae
The Sharjah Discovery Centre
Saturday to Thursday: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Fridays: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Children (under two years): Free
Children (2-12): AED 5
Adults (13+): AED 10
Opened in 1999, the Sharjah Discovery Centre is designed for children aged 3-12 and provides them with an immersive learning experience that aims to put science and technology into a real-world context. Children who visit the centre will discover in a playful and exciting way how the world really works and the role of science and technology in their daily lives. Of course, children will learn better if they are having fun in the process!
The centre is divided into seven major zones featuring a variety of entertainment ideas including The Drive Town, Airport, Build Town, petroleum refinery, TV studio, Climbing Walls, Sound Zone and an area dedicated to teaching the human anatomy. There is also a wonderful Storyteller Area where children can hear the storyteller reading educational stories that help broaden their knowledge base, in an atmosphere that is truly interesting and engaging.
Children are allowed to get hands-on throughout the Discovery Centre. For instance, in the Drive Town they can drive along the track and learn about traffic rules and regulations and in Build Town, they can build their own house by using construction cranes and colourful blocks. In the Airport, visitors can explore the different stages of travelling, including checking-in and boarding. Kids will also explore water dynamics as they play with water games. In the TV studio, they get the opportunity to discover their talents, and the centre also has a theatre for demonstrations and two workshops for making handicrafts.
For more information visit: www.sharjahmuseums.ae